Standalone equity release qualification "drastic and illogical": AMI

Standalone equity release qualification
These proposals are diametrically opposed to the regulator’s work on the ageing population to give older customers access and to encourage product innovation.

The AMI has described calls for a standalone qualification in equity release "drastic and illogical" stating that it "strongly disagrees" with the proposal.

In recent research, 77% of members questioned by the Society of Mortgage Professionals and the Personal Finance Society believe advisers that don't currently hold mortgage qualifications, particularly those active in giving later life advice, would seek to acquire a standalone equity release qualification.

However the AMI says that calls from individual advisers who want to expand their business by having an ‘easy route’ to a particular product should be viewed with extreme caution.

In a statement, the Association said: "We would seriously question the motive behind an adviser who wants to be able to advise on equity release but doesn’t want to consider other mortgages or to become qualified to do so. It is even more concerning if there is a desire to do this only on an occasional basis.

"While stripping out equity release into a separate qualification may benefit professional bodies it will only lead to narrow disclosures and ultimately customers will end up with the wrong products. These proposals are diametrically opposed to the regulator’s work on the ageing population to give older customers access and to encourage product innovation."

Instead, the AMI added that advisers across all financial sectors need to be able to identify consumer needs in order to know when to refer a customer for specialist advice. This requires all advisers to be able to consider wider implications of financial advice by having a basic knowledge of other areas.

The AMI also noted the increasing need to link advice on mortgages with equity release as the industry shifts from a pure ‘equity release’ product towards hybrid products which allow servicing and later interest roll-up.

Mortgage products have also been evolving for older customers, such as the removal of upper age limits, which the AMI says "adds to the fluidity between ‘standard’ and lifetime mortgages".

It concluded: "The number of individuals who currently hold the equity release qualification is around 8,000, therefore there is not an issue around competence. Firms active in the sector do not suffer from a lack of capacity or recruitment issues.

"Proper consumer engagement and better signposting between firms is therefore the key to ensuring consumers have access to suitable products, whereas diluting qualifications will lead to the opposite."

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